Alan Lewin, Managing Director of ServiceMaster Clean, explains why swift action is needed to restore buildings damaged by fire.

Fire threats are increasing, according to the Association of British Insurers, with the cost of the average fire claim for commercial fires doubling to £21,000 between 2002 and 2008. Open plan buildings, which allow for a more rapid spread of fire, and the increase in out-of-town developments, where fires can go on unnoticed for longer, are among factors contributing to the doubling of fire costs.
Taking the recycling and management industry sector as an example, there were a number of blazes during 2013, some of which hit the national news headlines due to the severity of the damage caused. This included a fire at a recycling plant in the Midlands, caused by a Chinese lantern, resulting in £6million worth of damage. End of year figures for 2012 from the Chief Fire Officers’ Association (CF0A), indicated there were 300 blazes in this sector, and it is likely that a similar figure will be announced for 2013.

Trying to sort out a building which has been damaged after a fire is an unappealing task, resulting in cost and distress for the property owner or occupier. Acting quickly, and using specialist disaster restoration expertise, will help prevent further
damage or deterioration, and can save many valuable building contents. Even if damage Looks severe, items can frequently be salvaged and restored.
Its very important to begin the restoration process immediately, as burnt plastic, rubber or painted materials create poisonous fumes which, when mixed with water, can cause corrosion to metal surfaces within hours, and also affect other surfaces if Left untreated.
Fast action can also reduce the health risks from smoke damage and toxic smoke fumes. If materials have failed to dry out properly following water treatment to douse the flames, this can lead to moisture induced growth of mould colonies, which
can propagate and release allergenic spores or toxic compounds into the air.

Businesses affected by serious disasters should request that professionally qualified contractors are used for restoration and recovery work. As well as visible damage,
such as charred or burnt materials, smoke odour is one of the most notable after-effects of a fire. High temperatures cause the pores of a building’s materials to expand, allowing smoke to penetrate deep within. As the structure cools, the pores contract, locking the smoke in. Specialist equipment and expertise is required to thoroughly decontaminate a building to the Level required for refurbishment.
If a building has been damaged by fire, experts will be able to restore carpets and upholstery, extract water, remove odour, dry and dehumidify buildings, remove spills, dry and recover documents, and offer other related services that may be required.

Preparing a written document that outlines how the business will handle fire will help protect property and staff, reduce the disruption to business, and assist in the recovery and restoration process.
Your plan should include a List of important contacts, including your insurance company and a disaster restoration specialist, who can help you quickly return to ‘business as usual’ in the event of fire damage.
ServiceMaster Clean provides a specialist service, Restoration Response, which guarantees quick action, within a few hours of an emergency, to start putting the property back to pre-damage condition. Sign up is free, giving you peace of mind that, in an unexpected emergency, we will be there within two to four hours to help, delivering one of the fastest on-site response times, with the single goal of getting you back to business fast.

Regularly checking, inspecting and testing electrical equipment, installing and regularly testing smoke detection systems, and investing in security to help protect the property against arson are all valuable steps to take. By taking precautions, many cases of fire damage to buildings can be avoided.